Some people feel everything was easier in the old days and that the competition has never been harder than now. The challenges may differ, but the competition has always been just as hard in my mind. If you go back in time, almost to any moment in time, three basic rules apply: 

  1. A well-managed company with good products most likely is successful.
  2. A poorly managed company with good products probably has difficulties.
  3. A poorly managed company with bad products likely fights for its survival and sooner or later goes bankrupt. 

The challenges companies face nowadays reflect the present-day situation and this moment in time. 

When looking at the discussions on social media, you get the impression that something is wrong with working life. Finding a new job is hard and difficult, and it takes ages to land a new one. Then when you finally get a new job, only a few weeks later, you find out this was not your job or company. Or you landed your dream job, but only two years later, you are on extended sick leave because of burnout. Why is this so common?

I do not believe that employers suddenly have stopped appreciating their present employees or “job seeking candidates” and deliberately mistreat them or that all job seekers nowadays are bad or unfit for present-day work requirements. The most important success factors in any company are its management and employees, both equally important. A major challenge today in the work market is that employee demand and supply do not meet as they should, but it would be too easy to blame everything on this. 

I would like here to talk about a factor with a big impact and which both parties have in common: goal setting. The companies have their profit targets and the employees their career targets. Both parties seem to have an irresistible urge to raise the bar ever higher, often with unwanted working life consequences. 

The ever-rising profit targets of the companies increase the pressure on the management and the other employees, who already often work under great stress and sometimes impossible demands. The result of this is nowadays, almost by definition, burnout, which is already discussed on LinkedIn as it was a natural part of the job description. Which it most certainly is not. Burnout is always an example of bad and failed management.

It is easy for an “outsider” to say: When you prioritise things and use time, you get no burnout. However, when you have a hundred and one items on your table, all important and which all must be done right now, how do you prioritise. Sooner or later, this inevitably leads to a situation where you do your work worse, impacting everything you do. Present-day “profit culture” may also lead to an attitude where only persons with the ability to run ever faster and faster are qualified as suitable job seekers, leading to a vicious circle difficult to break. “Too challenging” profit targets, an everlasting hurry, and no time is a death kiss to anyone. 

Employees too set targets. In my mind, too many nowadays set too high career goals. You must continuously develop, do something new, and achieve more and more. Help me God, if I don’t get that new fancy title or salary raise, don’t anymore advance to a higher position, get to do the job I want. Not to speak of if you get fired. If you are prone to what others think of you, you must also deal with the pressure this has on your image and career goals. On top of this, 24/7 social media publicity further enhances your stress when you must publicly “show” others how well things are going, despite a burnout already knocking on your door. No wonder so many people’s life goes off track.

Anyone can land the wrong job. But, if you change jobs very often, when time after time something seems to be wrong with your job or company, it is worth analysing why so? Is there maybe something I do wrong? Do I perhaps apply to companies I should not go to work in the first place? Do I have wrong expectations vs myself, the job, or the company? Do I follow other people’s career dreams instead of my own? 

The same applies to a company that fails in its recruiting repeatedly. They likely do something wrong here, but what? I am sure no company wants to deliberately hire “wrong people”. No company intentionally wants to get a bad reputation or image that continuous failed recruiting processes or bad candidate experiences might give rise to. A too big a workload where 24/7 is not enough likely reflects how the recruiting is done too. HR executives are not immune to burnout.

Generally, I feel that work life has become harder. Attitudes and values have changed. The ability and will to understand the other party seems to have decreased on both sides of the table. People are more unconditional in their opinions and behaviour. The ability to be flexible and compromise has worsened. All this impacts what you do and how you do it, especially how you perceive what others are doing. In my mind, we ought to be more merciful towards ourselves and others, to our and other people’s goals, opinions and doings. 

It is no shame to fail. We all fail sometimes. It is no shame if we do not reach all our goals. Few do. It is no shame if we do not get everything we want. Very few do. It is no shame if our career does not advance precisely how we want. It is not always just up to us how things go. It is no shame to confess; I have done everything I can, but this time it is just not enough. On the contrary, it is a sign of great courage and a smart person. 

But it is a big shame if you deliberately drive yourself to an unbearable situation in your work and career only because you must prove a point to someone, perhaps even knowing in advance that you will fail. It is good to remember that many others suffer because of this at work and home. If you have done your best, that should be enough. You cannot do more than your best. No one can. 

Few things have touched my heart, like the suffering in Ukraine. It goes straight to the heart. It is in my mind every day, sometimes at night too. It has also made me reconsider the values in my life. I believe this has happened in most homes. Ever bigger profits, or a vicious career circle where we run ever faster, where nothing seems to be enough, where the opinions of other people, even of strangers on social media, count more than our wellbeing, and the misery all this may impact our loved ones, should not be number one on the list.

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